Blood clot in the lungs is known as pulmonary embolism in medical terms. It is caused due to sudden blockage of blood vessel or artery of the lungs. Normally the blood clot is small and does not affect the blood flow but sometimes the clot can be large thus blocking the normal blood flow causing death. In that case, quick treatment is necessary to prevent adverse consequences.
Very often, the blood clots are carried from other body parts like legs and it is transported into the lungs.
Shortness of breath, intense pain on the chest area, pain and discomfort while coughing or taking a deep breath are some of the symptoms of blood clots in lungs. The color of the cough can be pink and foamy when it is caused due to blood clots. You will have traces of blood in your sputum.
Some people will have general symptoms like getting anxious or feeling edgy, profuse sweating and feeling lightheaded etc. The heartbeat can become suddenly fast. If you have any of the above signs with shortness of breath, you should visit your doctor immediately. Some people will have swelling in one of their legs and wheezing.
The symptoms and seriousness of the disease can vary with respect to the size of the blood clot.
Often, blood clot in the legs is caused by deep vein thrombosis. Slowly the blood clot will get released from the legs and move into the blood traveling to lungs. Each year millions of people are affected with pulmonary embolism.
Blood clots occur when a cluster of materials clung closely to the blood in the artery.
Sometimes, it can occur due to blockage in artery, tumor like growth in arteries, and air bubbles. Fatty deposits can also block the blood supply causing blood clots in lungs. But they occur very rarely. Again there is more than one blood clot when the arteries of the lungs get blocked. It cuts off the oxygen supply from the lungs to body parts making you collapse.
Who are at risk?
People who are inactive for long time have increased chance of getting blood clots in lungs. For instance bedridden people, people who are in post-operative stage, people with serious illness or people who travel a lot by air are under risk of getting pulmonary embolism.
You should be active and more careful in case you have undergone recent surgery on legs or hips. Chronic illness like cancer, cardiovascular problem, stroke and severe infection can cause blood clots. People who are obese, people who are taking hormone therapy for longer duration and smoking habit have chance of forming blood clots.
Old age people are likely to develop serious medical problems like this. You may have pulmonary embolism in middle age if your parents or other family members have had similar episodes.
It is difficult to diagnose blood clots in your lungs since the symptoms are similar for other diseases like heart attack. Hence your doctor will collect complete history of your health before deciding the diagnoses. He may order for complete blood profile, ultrasound, CT scan, ECG test for confirming the test.
Anticoagulants are given for thinning the blood and to get rid of blood clots. These medicines will prevent further blood clots formation and will also restrict the growth of existing clots. Your doctor will give heparin injection for getting quick results.
For people with severe symptoms of blood clots, thrombolytics are administered for dissolving the blood clots.
In rare cases, surgery is done for removing blood clots and this process is called embolectomy. A thin tube or catheter is sent into your blood vessel and blood clot is removed by suction method. This method is applicable for removing small sized clots. In another method catheter is placed into the inferior vena cava that takes blood from the legs to the heart. It will stop the blood clots from moving into the heart or lungs.
People who have diagnosed with blood clots once have increased chance of getting it again. They have to take blood thinners for lifetime as advised by their doctors.
Avoid sitting idle for long periods and make it a routine to walk for every hour. After surgery you have to be active as quick as possible. Those who are using blood thinner medicines follow the instructions of your doctor to avoid complications.
Anticoagulants are given as pills for people who are diagnosed with heart attack or stroke to prevent pulmonary embolism. Compression stockings can be used for preventing blood clots on the legs.
Using pneumatic compression helps one to inflate the air for programmed intervals which would the squeeze the veins of legs to facilitate normal blood flow.